Is the AV-8B Advanced Harrier Aircraft Ready for Full-Scale Development?

PSAD-79-22: Published: Jan 30, 1979. Publicly Released: Jan 30, 1979.

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In 1979, the Secretary of Defense is planning to authorize full-scale development of the AV-8B Harrier aircraft. A prototype effort was started in 1976 to demonstrate that it will be possible to double the range and payload capability of the aircraft without developing a new engine. Testing has been successful and ahead of schedule. A Marine Corps analysis indicates that the vertical take-off Harrier is a more cost-effective system than the F/A-18 Hornet, a conventional take-off plane originally designated to replace certain Marine and Navy aircraft. If this is proven, the Harrier program will be substituted for the Hornet.

The results of the analysis show that neither program is substantially superior to the other. Additional testing may be necessary if the present evidence is not sufficient. Until a definite need is shown for developing the Harrier, it is GAO's opinion that the aircraft should not be developed further.

Recommendation for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Recommendation: Full-scale development of the Harrier should not be authorized until the Marine Corps is ready to select the plane as its new attack aircraft. Any additional testing needed to establish the plane's capabilities should be done on existing funds. The decision, whatever the outcome, should be made quickly to assure that production and delivery proceed on schedule. If the Harrier program is selected for development, production of the aircraft before development phase testing is complete should be authorized only after the risk of concurrent development and production has been thoroughly analyzed.

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